ATLANTA — Lauren Render is a special athlete.

The Hillgrove senior is heading to Virginia Tech to play lacrosse next fall, but for the past two years, she has been an integral part of the school’s flag football team, helping build a foundation for future success and finishing her brief career in the sports by helping deliver its first state championship.

As Hillgrove beat Marietta 20-6 on Thursday at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium, Render starred, intercepting three passes and scoring two touchdowns in beating the Lady Blue Devils for the third time this season.

Hillgrove coach Daniel Pinckney said Render is a role model for future members of the program.

“(That team) set the tone for this program. They built this,” Daniel Pinckney said. “Those young women set the standard. Those girls left a legacy.”

Render was one of the key members back from last year’s inaugural team, which made it to the state championship game before ultimately losing to West Forsyth in double overtime.

In her last flag football game, she helped Hillgrove make up for the loss.

“It means the world,” Render said. “Obviously, if we won last year, it would mean just as much, but this year, coming back and knowing we had a loss on our hands, we wanted it more than anything. Especially the girls who were on the team last year.”

Defensively, Render finished the regular season with 11 interceptions at her safety position. On offense, she had 47 receptions for 539 yards and 16 touchdowns, while adding another 219 rushing yards and two scores.

In the playoffs, Render was even better.

In five postseason games, she intercepted five more passes. In the first round against River Ridge, she had 129 receiving yards and two touchdowns. In the title game, Render could have easily added in one more touchdown and interception.

It appeared as if she had caught a 2-yard touchdown pass late in the first half, but the officials called her down inside the 1. On the first play of Marietta’s ensuing drive, Render intercepted the pass, but a teammate was called for pass interference, nullifying out the turnover.

“(Flag football) is different from any sport I have played, and it just keeps getting bigger,” Render said. “When I was younger, I grew up playing football at the ballpark, so it’s just kind of a dream come true for me.”

Render’s first touchdown came from her first interception, which she returned 35 yards for a touchdown just over 7 minutes into the game.

“(That play) set everything,” Render said. “You could hear the stands and our players. Going up at the very beginning — I mean, that is all you can ask for to set the standard.”

Render caught a 1-yard touchdown pass in the second half, and on the last defensive play of her career, she added her final interception.

“Miss Render is the best,” Pinckney said. “She is the best flag football player in the state of Georgia, and today, she proved it, hands down.”


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